I am often asked, “have you always been a daredevil or thrillseeker” and I would have to respond by saying yes. If you’ve ever been to a small town during the summer you may have heard about Little Britches Rodeo – well there I was in Zealand North Dakota and I found myself on the back of the young bull. To my amazement I ended up winning five dollars! That was a lot of money to a six-year-old and hence the seed of thrillseeking began.
I had always lived life to the fullest, always seeking adventure of the mundane, so when my life changed course, it just meant a whole new avenue of adventures opened to me. I always enjoyed skiing and snowboarding, even though I didn’t do it very often (Eastern North Dakota is not exactly the place you would find an avid skier), I jumped at the first opportunity to try skiing as a quadriplegic. As I posted earlier, my first adventure in skiing was at Snowmass Colorado. As anyone from the plains of North Dakota can appreciate, I was awestruck by what I laid my eyes on – a summit peak of over 12,000 feet!
As I was sitting at the base of the mountain reflecting back, it was hard to imagine that just nine months prior I was laying in a hospital with a severed spinal cord. As you can imagine my excitement, I did not sleep much the night before. Thinking about how they are going to get me into the Mountain Man (a skiing device used for quadriplegics), and all the other what if’s. So it was finally my turn, too late to turn back – besides that’s not my style. Several volunteers began prepping me for the transfer into the Mountain Man, and before I knew it I was out of my wheelchair and onto my skis. After all of the straps and duct tape were secured, we had a few hundred feet to go before reaching the chair lift.
The only thing going through my mind, was how exactly are we going to get into the chair lift. I am by no means a small person, and it is all dead weight. Well, I didn’t have much time to ponder as the line was short, and before I knew it we were standing on the pickup line. As the chair lift came to a sudden crawl, my ski instructors, one on each side, quickly lifted me the 6 inches or so and next thing you know we had reached our destination – 11,750 feet! What a nearly perfect day for skiing, bright sunshiny day not much wind and temperatures in the low 20s. After going over the instructions one more time, my instructor extended the tether line and we were off and skiing.
What an unbelievable experience it was. A feeling of freedom and independence – however brief it may have been is an experience I will never forget.